Pubdate: Fri, 13 Dec 2013
Source: Herald-Dispatch, The (Huntington, WV)
Copyright: 2013 The Herald-Dispatch
Author: Kristi Murphy


KENOVA -- Advocates for drug prevention made the case against 
marijuana legalization at a town hall meeting Thursday evening at the 
Kenova Municipal Building.

Tim White, Wayne County Anti-Drug Coalition and Region 5 Prevention 
coordinator, led a roughly hour-long presentation on marijuana -- 
examining what it is, what it does to its users and why it should not 
be legalized as is being proposed to the West Virginia Legislature.

Last month, the legislature's Joint Health Committee was told a bill 
allowing the use of medical marijuana was being drafted for 
consideration in the upcoming legislative session. The bill would 
allow people with certain illnesses like cancer and glaucoma to 
possess up to six ounces of marijuana. Registered patients would also 
be allowed to have no more than 12 marijuana plants.

White said approving medical marijuana is just a step toward full 
legalization, and the drug is more dangerous than ever -- with its 
potency having more than doubled since 1998.

He said many studies have been done -- about 100 in the past 40 years 
- -- to examine the health benefits of marijuana. The studies show some 
impact to pain alleviation and appetite stimulation, among others; 
but White argues that not enough research has been conducted.

"Eighty-five percent of the studies have less than 100 people," he 
said. "All of the studies were short-term, lasting less than a year 
[and] only 13 percent examine smoking marijuana."

White said, in order to define something as a medicine, it has to 
have a standard measurable dose. He also said smoking is not an 
approved delivery system for a medicine.

"The raw plant form of marijuana is not measurable," he said. 
"Concentrations vary pretty widely. It's not possible to know purity 
or dosage from plant to plant, and the moment you put a flame to it, 
you're going to change the chemical makeup of it."

He cited the Coalition for a Drug-Free California, which commended 
the American Medical Association for saying "cannabis is a dangerous 
drug and as such is a public health concern."

"There's absolutely no difference [between] the marijuana sold on our 
streets and the marijuana that is prescribed as medicine," he said. 
"The raw plant-based form of marijuana sold from a dispensary is the 
exact same quality and carries the same risks as marijuana sold on 
the streets."

Using poison ivy and poison oak as examples, White said just because 
something is natural doesn't mean it is safe and highlighted the 
negative side effects of marijuana -- sedation, euphoria, 
hallucinations, panic attacks, poor concentration, increased appetite 
and decreased blood pressure.

"This is not the first time it's come up in the state of West 
Virginia," he said regarding legalization. "They actually looked at 
legalizing marijuana as a cash crop. They're not necessarily looking 
at it as a medical use, but if West Virginia figured out a way to 
regulate it, you'd have to buy a permit to grow it and pay taxes on 
it to sell it."

He said legalizing marijuana would only lead to more problems for 
West Virginia's kids who already start smoking cigarettes at the 
average age of 11.

When it came time to answer questions from residents in attendance, 
some provided their personal opinions on the topic. One woman said 
she smoked marijuana for 10 years and didn't realize she was addicted 
to it until she tried to stop. She said she still craves the drug 
after two years of being clean.

One man, on the other hand, said he experiences constant pain and 
does not want to take prescription medication in order to alleviate 
it. He said he views marijuana as a safe alternative since, unlike 
prescription pills, it's nearly impossible to overdose on it and only 
a small percentage of users become addicted to it.

The session wrapped up with a panel that included Kenova Police Chief 
Ray Mossman, Officer Brandon Willis, Wayne County Family Resources 
Network's Charity Damron and Prestera's Kim Miller fielding questions 
about recovery and the criminal effects of illegal drug use.

The presentation was funded by the West Virginia Bureau of Behavioral 
Health and Health Facilities.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom